The Shocking Truth about Wooden Houses and Earthquakes

The truth is finally out there as there is proof that wood-frame constructions such as wooden houses are earthquake-proof. Experts have proven that log homes, cabins, and other wooden structures have certain advantages when seismic activities occur. History has shown that even the most disastrous 6.8 magnitude earthquake in Hyogo-Ken Nambu, Japan could not topple down the high and mighty wood-framed pagodas in the country.


The Truth About Wooden Houses and Earthquakes

According to the United States Geological Survey, over a million earthquakes are estimated to occur all over the world every year and none are preventable. However, there is always the choice of opting for sound construction design and structures such as wooden houses in order to minimize structural damage. These wood-framed buildings have shown exceptional performance and resistance to the lateral forces that seismic activities result in.

Based on collated data on building code development, wood-frame constructions pass all the standards and even exceed the stringent requirements of seismic or earthquake-proof designs. How? For instance, wood materials have certain characteristics that make them highly resistant to external forces which are an obvious advantage over their steel, masonry, and concrete counterparts. Thus, wood is an ideal and highly recommended material for constructions in earthquake prone areas.

Why Are Wooden Houses Better at Withstanding Earthquakes?

Here is a detailed explanation and outline that proves wood-framed structures are the best against the destructive effects of seismic activities:

Wood is Lightweight

During an earthquake, a seismic wave is created, forcing the ground to tremble and move, thus causing massive damage with high intensity forces. A strong ground motion results in the shaking of the foundation of a structure and building. Since the forces of the earthquake are proportional to the mass of the building or structure, the heavier the construction, the greater the force it experiences. Therefore, since residential log cabins are lightweight, they experience less impact from the seismic force. That’s exactly why wood-frame structures perform well during earthquakes, simply because they are substantially lighter than any other buildings.


Wood is Stiff and Strong

There is a particular feature in wooden constructions that make wooden houses resistant to the racking effects of seismic lateral forces. These forces cause distortion to the walls of the building but the wood structure’s shear walls provide the necessary protection from racking. The racking resistance and level of stiffness of the walls are customizable, depending on the area and the average intensity level of the earthquake in that location. This is done through increasing the panels of the structure, particularly its thickness, stud size, as well as the quantity and size of nails in the structure.

Wood is Ductile

 Wooden houses are basically connected and joined together using a large amount of nails. This particular construction feature contributes to the intrinsic ductility or versatility of the wood-framed structures. Unlike its rigid concrete and masonry counterparts, a wood construction flexes and can absorb and dissipate the energy or force due to seismic activities. Thus, no matter how great the force is, wooden structures still stand and could bend but not break, so to speak.

Wood is Redundant

The redundancy of log houses is due to the presence of finishes and sheathing that is attached to the studs and joints of the wood. All these features offer the kind of redundant load paths that absorb the forces of seismic waves during earthquakes. The redundant and multiple load paths and connections that link the wood-framed construction also disperse the massive seismic force that is destructive when felt in full force. What happens is that there is no overloading or failure of connections because the adjacent or nearby connections offer alternate load paths for the force, thereby preventing collapse.


It is important to note that wooden houses are not the only ones with a sound and effective load path. Some modern and concrete structures also have a chance to prevent collapse if they have well-designed load paths notwithstanding the materials that are used for the construction.

Wood Structure Connectivity and Seismic Forces

Other than the notable characteristics of wood, a wood-framed construction is also known for an effective connectivity that makes the structure earthquake-proof. Those wooden houses with superior walls, roof framing, and floors have secure connectivity. This connectivity also ensures the solid and single feature of the structure which is quite critical in preventing earthquake forces.

Wooden houses have well-connected structural elements that are then anchored to the main base or foundation of the building. This connectivity is responsible to the resistance of the wood-frame structure to racking, overturning, and sliding that are quite inevitable during earthquakes. Ensuring the connectivity of the structure is made simple and hassle-free through tie-downs and standard connections that are compatible to high-load designs.


Wood Houses and Log Cabins with Seismic Design

The best thing for you to do when planning for a log house or cabin in an earthquake-prone area is to invest in structures with seismic design. Experts believe that wooden houses with seismic design are those that exhibit good performance during seismic activities and not substantial brute strength. Why? The ductility of the wood-framed structure is a more relevant factor to resist and prevent the damages of earthquakes rather than its strong construction. You need your building to flex and dissipate the effects of a great seismic force, not the strength to resist it.

More Wood Structures on The Way

Nowadays, wood-framed construction is no longer exclusive to log cabins and log houses in areas where earthquakes are a frequent reality. Wood frame has become popular in open structures with the likes of commercial malls, schools, and glazed custom houses. Thus, there is no denying that it is better to invest in wooden houses than conventional structures when living in earthquake-prone locations.


Wood is a versatile material with high structural performance, especially in the midst of ground-shaking natural calamities. Wood-frame systems, such as the one in wooden houses, are designed to combat and prevent the damage caused by high intensity seismic activities. This type of structure not only saves your property but, most importantly, your life.

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